Shillong, Sep 21 (UNI) The Air Force, for the first time, would soon deploy its multi-role Sukhoi SU-30MKI combat jets at the Tezpur Air Base in Assam to enhance India's capability to launch aerial precision attacks on China.
The Su-30MKI's 1,500-km combat radius is enough to cover all the major cities in southwest China, including Kunming, Chengdu and Chongqing. India plans to outfit the fighters with the latest BrahMos air-to-ground supersonic missiles, which have a 290-kilometer range.
''The twin-seater air dominance fighter aircraft are expected to land at the Tezpur Air base by November end this year,'' Air Marshal Shiv Kumar Bhan, the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Eastern Air Command, told UNI here.
The proposed deployment of the combat jets came at a time when China has sent its Su-27SK fighters to Sichuan province, bordering India for airport transfer training on the plateau.
In order to house the Sukhoi SU-30MKI jet fighters, jointly developed by Russia's Sukhoi Corporation and India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the Tezpur Air Force base at Upper Assam has been upgraded.
The IAF is also upgrading its air bases at Dibrugarh, Mohanbari, Jorhat, Guwahati, Hasimara and Bagdogra in Assam to counter China's ability.
''Once they arrive, we will start our training programme to help our pilots adapt to different environments and respond with flexibility,'' the Air Marshal said.
In fact, the IAF has already deployed two squadrons of the SU-30s at Ladakh Air Base in Jammu and Kashmir at a time when Pakistan is scheduled to receive a fresh batch of F-16 combat aircraft from the US, as also the JF-17s from China. Two more squadrons of the aircraft are permanently stationed at Bareilly in a China-centric deployment.
At present, IAF has just about 60 of the 230 Sukhoi-30MKI fighters contracted from Russia at an overall cost of over 8.5-billion dollars. Of the 230 jets, 140 are to be produced under licence by HAL.
Incidentally, the government has directed HAL to complete the ongoing Sukhoi project by 2013-2014 since the IAF is grappling with both a severe shortage in the number of its fighter squadrons, down to 32 from the ''sanctioned'' strength of 39.5, as well as ''poor serviceability'' of its MiG-21, MiG-27 and Jaguar fleets.
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